How do you say während in English? Do while and during mean the same thing?

Although while and during have the same function – to talk about two things happening at the same time – the two words are used in different situations.

While is a conjunction and should be used before a clause (a part of a sentence with a subject and verb); during is a preposition and should be used before a noun (German: Substantiv).

Compare these examples:

English German
She called me while I was in the meeting. Sie hat mich angerufen, während ich im Meeting war.
She called me during the meeting. Sie hat mich während des Meetings angerufen.

In the first example, while is followed by the clause I was in the meeting. In the second, during is followed by a noun (the meeting).

In German, während can function as both a conjunction and a preposition. In the first example, während is followed by the clause ich im Meeting war, and in the second it is followed by a noun in the genitive case (des Meetings).

As German speakers don’t think about how they’re using während, deciding whether to use while or during can sometimes be a bit difficult. But once you understand the difference, this becomes easier.

Here are a few more examples:

English German
He fell asleep while we were watching the film. Er ist eingeschlafen, während wir den Film geschaut haben.
He fell asleep during the film. Er ist während des Films eingeschlafen.
Please feel free to ask questions while I am making the presentation. Sie dürfen gerne jederzeit Fragen stellen, während ich die Präsentation halte.
Please feel free to ask questions during the presentation. Sie dürfen gerne jederzeit Fragen während der Präsentation stellen.

Do you have any questions about this or another English-related topic? Send me an email at philmarlowenglish@gmail.com

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